The private pilot reported that he checked the Cessna 172’s fuel tanks prior to takeoff.
He added it was dark in the hangar where he used a wire to check the fuel level in the fuel tanks. He was not wearing his glasses and he thought he had “an inch or so” of fuel.
He thought that was enough fuel and departed on a cross-country flight.
During the flight, the engine “sputtered” and lost power. He turned the airplane towards the destination airport, but lost airspeed, so he lowered the nose and conducted a forced landing into trees near Colchester, Illinois.
A post-accident examination revealed that the airplane sustained substantial empennage, fuselage, and wing damage, while the pilot sustained serious injuries.
The fuel tanks were empty and there was no fuel odor anywhere at the accident scene.
Probable Cause: The pilot’s inadequate preflight of the fuel quantity which resulted in a loss of engine power due to fuel starvation during cruise flight.
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This May 2020 accident report is provided by the National Transportation Safety Board. Published as an educational tool, it is intended to help pilots learn from the misfortunes of others.